Mexico Trek!   Trekkers DISPATCH: September 10 Jonah's Log

Misunderstanding Mexico City

I had a lot of fears about coming to Mexico City. Wouldn't you if you were going to a new place so far away from home? My first day I sat down with my new trek team friends and told them what I expected: poverty, crime, and air pollution were the first three things that came to mind. I learned in my first few days that these fears, just like my fears of any big city, are only valid some places some of the time. Taking a breakBack home in New York the story is similar. Some neighborhoods are safe and some are not so safe. And most of the time walking around the streets during the day is fine but walking around the streets at night is asking for trouble.

The poverty isn't nearly as severe as I expected. I had imagined hundreds of dirt roads surrounded by tents and beggars, but I found nothing of the sort. Occasionally a pair of children, accompanied by a mother, will ask me for money, but that isn't different from New York. And all of the roads I've seen are paved just as they are in New York, if not better. It is true, however, that I haven't seen much of the city, so I may be in for a surprise. But then again, I haven't seen many parts of New York.

The air pollution is probably the most bothersome part of Mexico City to me, though I have yet to see the worst. In my four days here it hasn't become too bad. It has rained every day, which helps clean the air. I occasionally have asthma problems in the US, especially when I visit my brother in Los Angeles. To my surprise I haven't had any asthma problems here.

Air pollution bothers me most when I walk alongside lots of traffic. There is a lot of traffic in Mexico City. The car exhaust collects in pockets of air and makes it hard to breath from time to time, but often a gust of wind or a pocket of fresh air will relieve you. Before I came to Mexico a friend told me that all the birds had died in the city because of the air pollution. I haven't researched the truth of this yet but I have seen some morning doves, some pigeons, a hummingbird, and a few other common birds that I can't identify. Maybe itís true for parts of the city.

Like everyone who comes here I have asked the question "What causes the air pollution and what can be done about it?" Car exhaust is the biggest problem and one solution has been to ban traffic of specific cars one day of the week. In other words, if you own a car you aren't allowed to drive it on one specified day of the week. Americans are used to their driving freedom. I'm trying to imagine how my aunt would respond to a law saying she isn't allowed to drive on Fridays!

There are some idiosyncrasies (special things) about this city that make me smile.

Without fail, it rains every day at 5:30 PM. I know that such patterns are common in tropical areas, but it is a fresh surprise for a New Yorker.

The "Metro", or "subway" as I refer to it, is the cheapest in the world. It only costs $0.15 per ride, and you can ride very far. Also, it is very fast. The train cars can be very crowded but they move very fast and they come and go from the station very often. I think that public transportation in Mexico City is good. The only problem is that there are SO MANY people!

On the metro, MANY people, ranging in age from 8 to 80, walk up and down the cars selling anything and everything. And it is cheap! I've seen everything from chocolate bars to periodic tables of the elements (as in chemistry). And to top it off they make their way through the crowd chanting in Spanish, trying to sell their products. "One peso of chocolate. One peso of value. One peso of worth. One chocolate bar for that special girl or boy. For your mother, for your father, for your aunt, or your brother. ..."

The cabs in Mexico City are all Volkswagen Bugs. I've never seen so many Volkswagen Bugs!

At night the sky doesn't have a purple glow like the New York City sky. It is the only big city that I have visited that doesn't have that nighttime glow. I think it is because there are comparatively few lights in Mexico City.

The people are very polite and very formal in this city.

Everyone said, "Don't drink the water." I did and regretted it.



Related Dispatches: 
Jonah - Misunderstanding Mexico City
Shawn - Beware the Red Zone!

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